I have a few things in common with one of the characters in The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell. I am the mother of girls, I homeschool them, and we belong to a private park. However, I hope that I won’t hold illusions about what my kids might be capable of. Both moms in this book suffer from a common literary problem–they are unable to imagine that their children may be up to no good, and while harboring this illusion, they continually push their children into precisely the situations that would make them more likely to misbehave (and worse). Then, when the scales are lifted, they seem surprised by the turn of events. This frustrates me to no end and I see it time and time again in literary fiction of the suspenseful kind.
That nitpick aside, I loved the setting of the story and the way it informed the plot. A group of houses all back up on what is essentially a private park, closed off to the rest of London and acting like a communal backyard. The kids are largely unsupervised and you can imagine where that has led in the past and is leading in the present.
The newest arrivals are Clare and her daughters Pip and Grace, who have a past they don’t want to talk about. The story opens with Pip discovering Grace’s lifeless body in the garden, and in the course of the subsequent investigation, ghosts from the past are disturbed and present relationships cast in a new light. It’s mostly well done with only a few slips to keep it from perfection.